“Show Me the Money”
“Welcome to the Neighborhood”
by Jason Kron
April 20 marks the anniversary of Space Alien Donald leaving our planet in 2015 at age 79.
He was many things: loner, scientist, writer, voracious reader, anarchist, vegetarian, freethinker. Having lived a nomadic life, he spent the last four years of his Earth time residing in Phoenix, and instantly became a celebrity amongst the community.
Not only was he well-known for being a genuine eccentric, but he was also a proud outcast before many subcultures were formed to give outcasts a home (hippies, punks, etc). He was a big fan of science fiction, and empathized with the intellectually advanced alien characters who tried to open the minds of Earth people and were punished as a result (such as in Slan, his favorite book).
As he explained in Ben Kitnick and Saxon Richardson’s short documentary Funny World, “I’m not saying I’m really from outer space, I’m saying I’m alienated.” For many others who have also felt alienated, he served as a guiding light.
Donald always tried to turn the spotlight away from himself and onto other artists he admired. He scoffed at the idea of being called a musician, though he was secretly an amazing pianist. He also didn’t think of himself as a wordsmith, though he was a published poet and authored at least two books (he threw most of his book copies in a dumpster during the 1990s).
Yet he started performing at age 74 and came to be known as “The World’s Oldest Gay Canadian Rapper” (a moniker thought up by Abe Gil from Treasure Mammal). The album Must Be Funny (a nod to the Prescott parody religion of the same name) was recorded by Jalipaz at Audioconfusion and released on Ryan Avery’s Related Records label seven months before Donald returned to the cosmos. Let us thank Mars that he decided to leave this documentation behind in the nick of time. The album is a perfect reflection of Donald: one-of-a-kind, fearlessly weird and effortlessly insightful.
Must Be Funny is not a quirky rap novelty album. I wouldn’t lump it in with any other genre either. The music is jarring and disconcerting, matching the varying lyrical shades of idiosyncrasy throughout. Donald’s one-take-or-bust vocal tracks show a laid-back cool that embodied him as an individual. He wasn’t trying, and that’s what made the album work. It’s comfortable and sincerely itself.
The title Must Be Funny sums up the album’s theme as well as summing up Donald’s worldview. Some of the sillier topics include felines from outer space (“Cats”), a hamster on wheels (“Skateboard”), and how cyborg fornication is only morally acceptable if the androids are physically attractive (“Ugly Robots Shouldn’t Have Sex”). These songs fit in with the more overtly philosophical tracks on the album because they all attack mindless seriousness. This lyric in “Funny World” (named after the Heaven-esque destination in the Must Be Funny religion) says it all: “Serious world is based on empty belief.” Donald believed in maintaining a sense of whimsy as an act of rebellion.
Similarly to Devo (one of the first things we bonded over), the Space Alien questioned the notion that humankind was evolving forward. Mixed in with the album’s zaniness are genuine pleas to improve the planet’s condition by thinking for yourself and putting the kibosh on bureaucracy and dogma. As he proclaimed in “Human Zoo”, “If you are dumb, if you have greed, on planet Earth you can succeed. Those who run this planet seem to be part of a foolish, unwise regime.” (Sound familiar?)
Though he had a rightfully pessimistic outlook on the human race, he also had faith in the ability of the alienated to fight the idiocy. In “Happy As Can Be”, he spoke for his extraterrestrial brethren who merely want peace for us all: “Space aliens are gentle. We didn’t come to invade. Space aliens are lovers too, caring as can be.” As has been the case with a lot of the best sci-fi, Donald used the analogy of the misunderstood Martian to highlight humankind’s fear of the other, and to emphasize the point that maybe the other shouldn’t be feared after all.
Seventy-nine years seems like a decent quantity for most lifelines, but Donald seemed especially youthful for any age group. He saw every Disney movie in theaters since the 1940s, introduced himself to every stranger as a space alien, wore costumes whenever he felt like it, and spent some of his last days in a hospital bed designing a spacesuit that could withstand temperatures on Mars. He jokingly told me many times that he had no intention of dying, that his brain would be transferred to a robot body and he would thereby be immortal.
Evoking a childlike wisdom, he observed the stress of the adult world and wondered why these grown-ups spent so much of their time upsetting themselves with pointless hooey. It’s not that children don’t understand, it’s that they haven’t been conditioned to self-destruct yet and can see the world more clearly than we can. Such was the case with Donald, who lived a full life but still seemed to have a lot more to do. But as he foreshadowed in the song “Hey Hey Hey”, “Space Alien Donald just shook his head, got back in his ship and away he fled.”
Must Be Funny is a testament to how much can be done with nothing more than imagination and honesty. Like Donald himself, the album somehow screams a message of “FUCK YOU” without being hateful. Its silliness is serious business. If you haven’t listened to it, please do so. If you have listened to it, please listen again. Donald was a magical being, and it’s incredibly important that he and his ideas be remembered through what he left behind. When I find myself succumbing to fear and conflict (which is far too often), I often return to this album so that he can guide me through these petty human emotions the way he used to in real life.
I hope that any listener takes from Must Be Funny what I took from seeing Donald perform for the first time. It was at the 2010 Real Coachella festival at The Trunk Space, the second time I had ever met him (the first time was also at The Trunk Space). As I watched this being be so unbelievably himself, and saw how little of a fuck he gave about what anyone thought of him, I thought to myself, “If he has the guts to do this, any of us can do anything.”
Read our original review of Must Be Funny by Space Alien Donald here.
Blaze Rock joined us at the Radio Phoenix Studios for our latest episode of The YabYum Hour. We talked a lot of AZ HipHop, got schooled on some cats we never heard of, and definitely head-bobbed the whole time. As always, our guest brought some great tracks down and the complete playlist can be found below. Click on the artist name for more info.
Make sure to tune in every 1st and 3rd Wednesday of the month at 7 PM for each live episode of The YabYum Hour, only on radiophoenix.org.
Blaze Rock “Defy Gravity”
BP Mercenaries “Boogeyman”
HYPR BST “Level Up”
ROKNOWLEDGE “Time Is Like A Promise”
Blaze Rock “Fearless”
Black One “Status Quo”
Blaze Rock “Failproof”
Blind Man ft. Purita “Gladiator Pen”
Cross Platform “Loved By You”
Mega Ran “Kickin’ In Doors”
SPAN PHLY “Joy”
Recorded live on March 15, 2017
by Carly Schorman
“I’ll Show You” is the second single from King Magnetic’s sophomore effort, Everything Happens for a Reason, which drops later this month. The beat has a kickback vibe that sits well with the serious tone of the rhyme style. “I’ll Show You” also features the musical stylings of Wu-Tang’s Cappadonna who will be touring with King Magnetic following the release of his new LP. Make sure you keep watch for the March 31st release of Everything Happens for a Reason and, until then, enjoy “I’ll Show You” from King Magnetic below…
The San Diego duo known as Clean/Cut dropped their new EP last week which features this snappy single, “Feel Something”. Clean/Cut have a crisp lyrical style that pairs well with the electro-pop underpinnings of the instrumentation on this track. The lyrical content takes a critical look at life in the post-human era of tindr and fancied-up coffee and disaffection. Don’t worry, “Feel Something” has some hope tucked away in beyond its existential angst. Give the single from Clean/Cut a listen below &/or head here for the complete EP.
This latest single from Afika Nx is all-around awesome. From the Caribbean-influence on the minimal beat to the touching lyrics that pay tribute to the artist’s mother, “Oh Mama” has an easygoing atmosphere filled with all the love and appreciation kids feel for their single moms, mine included. Spend some time with “Oh Mama” by Afika Nx and then, if you can, give your mother a call. She probably misses you and you probably miss her too.
This Michigan-based emcee (by way of Japan and California) has a pensive rhyme style that addresses the uncertainty that accompanies the life of an artist. Ollie Joseph might be relatively knew to the music-making game but he’s got some real potential as a songwriter. “Whatever Happens” was produced by Siren, who also worked with Ollie Joseph on his debut single. The track also features the vocal stylings of Alexa Lusader. Give “Whatever Happens” by Ollie Joseph a listen below…
The Chicago rapper known as Woes certainly holds up to his name. On his new single, Woes dives down to reach emotional depths and reports back his findings with refreshing honest. “Whiskey” combines a simple (and chill) beat with the contemplative discourse of Woes’ vocals. The track was produced by Mitch Geist and features the musical guests Aaron Black (additional vocals) and Des Martin (bass). Give the single a spin below…
Lee Black’s new EP, Who is Lee Black?, drops tomorrow but the L.A. emcee offered up this single as a little taste of what’s to come. A steady beat with some of that West Coast slink lays the groundwork for Black’s stellar lyrical delivery. If you hone in on the lyrics, you’ll find an ambitious push toward your better self. If you phase out here and there, you might think Lee Black is someone you don’t want to fuck with [i.e.,”killing off all that weak shit, bury it under cement”]. Give “Body Bag” from Lee Black a spin below. The EP drops tomorrow!
This short number clocks in at under two minutes, but King Wish manages to pack a lot of love-lost remorse into that time. “Amber Alert” usually refers to a child-abduction, but in this case, we’re dealing a different type of tragedy: the break-up kind. This single, which was produced by Young Tay, dropped last month. Since that time, King Wish has been keeping busy and already has a couple new slick singles to share with fans available. Check out “Amber Alert” below and then consider delving further into the online song offerings from King Wish.
by Carly Schorman
Boston’s Lucky Dice just dropped his debut LP, M.O.S.A. (Memoirs of a Starving Artist), last week and this chill number comes to us from that release. “Memoirs” sets a vintage soul vibe with its kickback beat (compliments of Berdz) as Lucky Dice lays out contemplative lyrics. Check “Memoirs” from Lucky Dice below and then head here to get your own digi-download of M.O.S.A. (Memoirs of a Starving Artist).
The L.A.-based emcee maintains a steady lyrical spit on “Coast” that will bring you current on the the artist’s life and inner workings. Pwest applies an indie slant to his brand of hip hop that reminds me of the Anticon crew from a bit further up the coast. I really don’t know what I like more on this single: the subtle strength of Pwest’s lyrics or the thoughtful lack of unnecessary adornment. “Coast” is a stripped-down single, but that makes it no less compelling. Check out “Coast” by Pwest below…
Phoenix’s Big Limn teamed up with the beatmaker out of Tampa known as Starlawd. The result? Third Eye Society: a fourteen-track album of fresh takes including this stellar single. Nimble rhymes ride old school beats on “Each Day I Rise” with a little added horn flavor. Seriously, Big Limn’s rhyme style is straight maniacal with how quickly he can spit out a phrase. Give “Each Day I Rise” a spin below and then head here for the complete LP from Big Limn and StarLawd.
Ever wonder what it might be like for a black kid growing up in a predominantly white community? Like Australia? Davey shares his experience with just that on his new single, “White Kids”. Now, white people, please don’t go into this song thinking that you’re suddenly going to be totally woke by the end of “White Kids” and embarrass everyone else. Davey is only offering his own personal narrative here, but he does so in silver-tongue style against a minimal urban beat. Give the single a spin below…
This pretty slick collaborative effort comes to us from UK producer Vidorra and US rapper Young Twaun. “No Rolex” takes the best of both worlds and smashes it together. You get the vigor of Young Twaun’s rhyme style set against the distinctively different soundscape of Vidorra. The DJ, producer, and multi-instrumentalist from Birmingham might only be 17 years old, but he’s doing some interesting things in the texturing on this track that other producers would be wise to give the once over.
This new single comes to us from Treezy’s latest album, Phoenix. But all you Phoenicians should hang on for a sec, Treezy is actually from Seattle by way of Louisiana. On “Burnout”, Treezy’s rhyme style is both slinky and slightly aggressive at the same time. He holds to the beat, which is stripped-down, but solid, and proves you don’t need a lot to do a lot. Listen to “Burnout” from Treezy and then head here for the complete Phoenix experience.
Kansas City musician Jackson Alexander has a unique approach to HipHop or, excuse me, “Folk Hop”. Alexander takes his own unique rhyme style and applies it to some Heartland folk. You know, kind of like Rap-Rock, but a little earthier and, hopefully, a whole lot cooler in its connotation. Either way, “Rolling Stone” by Jackson Alexander pushes those traditional genre boundaries and that’s something we can always get behind. Check out the single below….
by Mark Anderson
It’s no secret I get down to my fair share of electronic music.
While I tend not to veer to the more commercial side of things, I have noticed that I find pop songs are a bit more palatable these days as electronica continues to exert more influence over the mainstream.
However, I still prefer my electronic music, like most things in my life really, with a little edge. Some bite, if you will. Something that takes it from everyday to extraordinary. The following tracks, sifted out of the tracks we hear from all around the world, have done just that.
Comin’ straight outta Kazan [Russia], “Last Journey” is the second track off RNBWS new 4-track EP, To The Border & Back. Although the album comes only with the label Techno, don’t let the nondescript hashtag throw you for a loop. RNBWS “work[s] in an experimental direction of advanced electronics.” Their single, “Last Journey”, sends my head spinnin’ every time I hear it with its poly-rhythmic beat that features dark synth sounds and plenty of percussion. Part of the Get Busy! collective, the Label/Party/Clothing line certainly lives up to their name – they’ve released a bevy of EPs lately including new albums from Yung Acid, Gorilya, and Mostapace. Bump “Last Journey” by RNBWS below…
Ricardo Oliva, based out of Guadalajara/Culiacán [Mexico], has me goin’ with his latest track “Anémona”. This piano-led, Future Bass-fueled, Nu-Disco/House track sounds awkward to explain because it is. Mr. Oliva is all about mixing genres, even performing with live musicians during some of his presentations. Funky jazz guitar, intriguing samples, and a killer Deep Trance bridge accompany “Anémona” to fantastic heights. I highly recommend checking out this new single from Ricardo Oliva below…
Have you ever wanted a cute, fun track to listen to that you can also bob your head to all serio at the same time? If your answer is a resounding “Yes!” then look no further than “Bubble Tea” by the Animist. In the vein of Japanese artist Ujico, “Bubble Tea” is a Kawaii, Future Bass track featuring music box, deep low end, trap drums, and plenty of vocal, and of course, video game samples abound. Producing out of Charlotte, NC, the Animist is on a personal mission to “Grow Local Brands & Entrepreneurs to a National Scale” through his use of video production, photography, and even comedy. See that kids? Diversifying, that’s the name of the game. Check out his website for more info but not before playing “Bubble Tea” below…
I can’t quite recognize any of the samples in Idiosync’s latest single, “Digital Footprint”, and I guess that’s the point. As stated in his bio: “Field recordings may evoke flashbacks and associations just like a familiar smell might. Modifying these recordings, chopping [them] to pieces and blending them with each other could affect listener’s perception in the most unexpected ways.” And, indeed, they have. What essentially is a solid breaks track has plenty of noise and experimental innovations thrown in to keep things interesting. Off of his recently released Gigbits album, get down to “Digital Footprint” by Idiosync below…
An old-school House vibe pervades on MGER’s latest track, “have you seen her”. Although this song is “mainly constructed from samples around all genres, mostly old stuff,” don’t let that fool you into thinking MGER is stuck in the past. As he states on his SoundCloud, “I make tunes, some bangy, some less bangy.” I honestly enjoy the retro feel of this track far more than the polished trap or hard electronica of his previous releases. With “have you seen her”, MGER has me feeling good things are coming out of Finland. Take a listen below…
Sometimes, it’s all in your approach. As in the case of BasicSexxx and their debut single “FREAKwhensees”, this statement was sent to us along with their song: “If you are able to read this message then you have been chosen as the leader of an elite squad of Earthlings operating on the highest frequency, and we need your help to save the world.” This band knows how to get your attention. But, before you start thinking that Basicsexxx is some chiseled International DJ, they’re actually a couple of Los Angeles-based hiphop artists: Sami Seal on vocals and Rem_OD on production. “FREAKwhensees” is dystopian hiphop this is purportedly “found only in the Space Jazz cafes of Andromeda”. And, what’s more, it actually sounds that way: a spooky future style of production mixed with poetic lyricism certainly has this song sounding like nothing else on Earth. Serving as an introduction to MINT, an EP and novella, “FREAKwhensees” is a single I suggest you dive into immediately.